Armed group takes control of towns in Oromia

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The Oromo Liberation Army (OLA), an armed group classified as a terrorist organisation by the Ethiopian government, is said to have taken control of some territory in the West Wollega zone of the Oromia Region and kidnapped some government officials, the BBC Amharic reported.

Residents and an official who asked not to be named for security reasons told the radio that OLA militants have taken control of towns, Mendi, Kiltu Kara, and Leta Sibu. The residents said that the militants have destroyed and confiscated civil property in areas they have controlled.

Residents said that half of the government officials in the towns were abducted by the outlawed group, while the rest fled into the surrounding forest. The militants robbed banks in the towns and destroyed and looted government offices, the witnesses said.

Local officials declined to comment when asked by the BBC.

A resident of Mendi town said that there have been explosions and gunfire heard in the town since Monday. “All shops were closed, the streets were empty. There were no cars. The town folks were confined at home, ” he told the BBC. According to the witnesses, banks were broken open and their vaults robbed, including branches of the Commercial Bank of Ethiopia, Siqi, and the Berhan Bank. The office of Ethio Telecom was also looted and destroyed, they said. Police stations and administrative offices were also targeted.

The abduction of local administration officials

The administrator of West Welega Zone, who was interviewed by the BBC, said the abductions of local administration officials occurred when the armed group took control of the towns. He said that some of the officials already fled early because they were being targeted by the militants. “Most of them headed to the army camp, desperately seeking protection. However, the government soldiers themselves ran away when they were attacked by the militants, exposing the officials to the armed group,” he explained.

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